Cougars knock off Wolverines 82-60 to improve to 3-0

The BYU men’s basketball team won their third straight game to start the season, beating the Utah Valley Wolverines 82-60 in the UCCU Crosstown Clash.

Although the final score did not reflect it, much of the game was more competitive than the previous two contests were for the Cougars. UVU jumped out to an early 18-8 lead, thanks in part to inconsistent shooting by BYU. With around 12 minutes to play in the first half, the Cougars were shooting only 29 percent from the field.

Things changed for BYU when sophomore guard Trevin Knell scored five straight points to end a 12-2 run by the Wolverines. Knell scored a layup, missed a 3-pointer, then made his second attempt from behind the arc following an offensive rebound by Caleb Lohner.

“Coach Pope says if you go 0-for-8, keep shooting,” said Knell following the game. “If you go 0-for-16, keep shooting. If you go 0-for-30, just keep owning your shot and trust the process. I didn’t even realize we were missing that many 3’s to start. When I missed the first one, I thought, ‘If I get the ball back, I’m going to shoot it again.’ No one was on me right away and it felt really good. I took more time, got my feet set and let it fly.”

The Cougars took advantage of their depth for the rest of the second half and pulled ahead with a commanding lead. Senior guard Alex Barcello hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap off a 25-4 run for BYU to end the half. Barcello went into the locker room with 14 points and shooting 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

Senior center Matt Haarms played his first minutes as a Cougar in the first half and scored two points after missing a 3-pointer earlier on in the game. Haarms found his groove more in the second half and finished the game with 10 points in 12 minutes on 4-of-5 shooting.

UVU surged offensively towards the end of the second half and cut BYU’s lead to 10 with 4:46 to play. The Cougars took over from that point and finished the game on a 14-2 run, holding the Wolverines scoreless in the final three minutes.

Head coach Mark Pope acknowledged the difficulty of playing three games in four days and was optimistic about where the team stands going forward.

“You battle and fight through three nights out of four,” he said. “What this team has gone through with all the COVID craziness and then losing Gavin which is such a punch to the gut for everyone on the team. Then you finish up with a…not bitter, but really competitive in-state game with a lot of rivalry backstories. You put stretches like this together with three games in four nights and it’s really for us to learn about where we are.”

Barcello led the Cougars with 20 points and added seven rebounds to his box score. Freshman forward Caleb Lohner, who got the start in place of the injured Gavin Baxter, scored only six points but totaled eight rebounds and three assists.

Prior to the game, it was announced that Baxter would miss the remainder of the season due to an ACL injury suffered on Thursday night.

Senior guard Brandon Averette, playing against his former team, finished the game with 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.

The Cougars’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 12:30 p.m. MST, when they take on the 2-0 USC Trojans in the Roman Legends Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut. That game will be on ESPN2 and KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM.

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